Panem and America. Is Panem’s society an example of a possible future?

A comparison of the dystopia Panem of the "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins and America

Pre-University Paper, 2021

18 Pages, Grade: 1+



Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Panem’s society
2.1 The Definition ofPanem based on the book
2.2 Aspect 1: The gap between poor and rich and the understanding of freedom
2.3 Aspect 2: The norms and values that embody the society
2.3.1 Definition of norms and values
2.3.2 Inequality
2.3.3 Obedience to the Capitol
2.3.4 Conformity
2.3.5 Totalitarianism
2.3.6 Summary of the norms and values
2.4 Aspect3: The “free” will, the understanding ofFreedom

3 American society today
3.1 Capitalism and economic Inequality
3.2 The values of America
3.3 The American dream and freedom

4 The comparison between America and Panem’s society
4.1 The gap between poor and rich:
4.2 The norms and values:
4.3 The Freedom:

5 Conclusion

6 Appendix
6.1 Unused, extra or repeated text fragments:

7 Listofsources

1 Introduction

“The Hunger Games”, nearly everybody knows about the trilogy and the dark version of the future by Suzanne Collins or has at least heard of it. Panem follows the idea of a dictatorship that forces teenagers between twelve and eighteen years to appear in a live TV show to fight against each other to death. The whole trilogy is told from the point of view of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who unfortunately has to take part in this annual event. The plot of the story is that Katniss Everdeen finds a way to trick the games and survives with her friend. At the end of the book this survival weakens the capitol and its position. The book and its dystopic future of America seem to be far away and very unlikely to happen. But what if the story of Katniss Everdeen and the Capitol is an exaggerated representation of America's problems today?

If we now simply assume that Suzanne Collins wanted to criticize (and maybe change) America's society directly with her work “The Hunger Games” and the following books and that many aspects in the story are real problems, the questions arise “Which problems are there exactly?“, “Is Panem’s society an example of a possible future?” And even more interesting is the question in which points the two societies distinguish each other and in which points do they agree?

In order to be able to answer these questions we need to compare both societies. The society ofPanem and its problems based on the 2008 published book “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. And the American society of today described in the book “American Society: How It Really Works Second Edition” by Erik Olin Wright and Joel Rogers, published in 2015 and other sources. But to do that we need to categorize and summarise the most important aspects of both Panem and America. Regarding to the mass of data about America, its society and problems, this elaboration will largely focus on society, living conditions as well as social and structures. I will not go into details about the plot of The Hunger Games and the description of American society all in one, as this would go beyond the scope of this elaboration. As this elaboration uses “The Hunger Games” as the main source of information, most aspects about America are going to be based on the structure of the book and the described society. This leads us to the question of how Panem’s society is defined and in which aspects it can be compared with American society.

First of all we need to understand Panem and its concept. Then I am going to elaborate on the structure and describe and summarise based on the three main aspects of Panem its society. Subsequently I am going to describe, define and summarise the aspects of

America’s society which are important to compare with Panem. It follows the comparison between both societies and hopefully I am able to answer the questions above.

2 Panem’s society

2.1 The Definition ofPanem based on the book

The nation “Panem” is a tyrannical dictatorship lead by President Snow who holds total political and economic dominance. The nation is separated into 12 official districts and one government area which is placed around the North American territory. The Districts are separated by borders with barbed wire and are kind of sorted from wealthy (district 1,2,3) to very poor (district 10, 11, 12). It is forbidden to cross the borders and travel through districts, except for economic reasons (cf. THG p. 42). Each district has its work specialization. For example the 12th district is known for coal mining (cf. THG p. 5, 66) and “District 11, agriculture. District 4, fishing. District 3, factories.”(THG p. 66). All these districts mainly produce goods for the government. It is not allowed to choose ajob, and it is impossible to move to another district in order to work in the specialization there. The 13th district has its history and was destroyed by bombs from the government to fight down the call for a revolution against the Capitol, (cf. THG p. 19). These days also called the Dark Days in which “Twelve were defeated, the thirteenth obliterated.” (THG p. 19). New laws were passed to maintain peace and the Hunger Games were introduced, (cf. THG p. 19) The Hunger Games is the way of the government to remind its citizens to not rebel against it at any point. The Hunger Games tribute lottery, also called “the reaping”, in which everyone between 12 and 18 years, is forced to take part is only for the purpose of demonstrating the power of the Capitol and to cut down any kind of hope for a working revolution, (cf. THG p. 19). One could say that the Capitol is the perfect representation of a working (at the end of the trilogy not anymore) tyrannical dictatorship and a lot of things that have been done wrong in the past in dictatorships are correctly implemented here. The society ofPanem can be reduced to more or less three main aspects for understanding.

1. The gap between poor and rich and the understanding of freedom
2. The norms and values that embody the society
3. The “free” will, the understanding ofFreedom

2.2 Aspect 1: The gap between poor and rich and the understanding of freedom

In the book these mutuality’s represent one of the greatest influences of the government on those, the structures and the behavior of the people.

In many parts of the nation Panem it is the difference between the districts that determine whether you need to fight for your survival and have to worry about starving within the next days, or if you can watch the Hunger Games on TV full, saturated and satisfied. The gap between poor and rich is so big that on the one side even getting fresh bread or having more food than needed is a rarity and a reason to be happy and thankful. For example at the beginning of the story where Katniss and Gale share a meal and Katniss thought that: “It’s real bakery bread, not the flat, dense loaves we make from our grain rations.” [.. ,]”Fine bread like this is for special occasions.” (THG p. 8) shows how poor the working class is. On the other side there is the mass consumption of food by the upper class, those people who live in the first few districts, government area or work at a high position for the Capitol. The upper class has such a variety and quantity of food and things to consume that Effie Trinket (Hunger Games moderator for district 12) “[...] keeps reminding [...] [Katniss Everdeen and her friend] to save space because there’s more to come.” (THG p. 45). The difference gets even clearer when we compare Effie Trinkets criticism on Table manners from other tributes from district 12: “The pair last year ate everything with their hands like a couple of savages. It completely upset my digestion.” (THG p. 45) with the thoughts of Katniss Everdeen: “The pair last year were two kids from the Seam [poorest area in district 12] who’d never, not one day of their lives, had enough to eat. And when they did have food, table manners were surely the last thing on their minds.” (THG p. 45). This makes the difference between people from the upper class like Effie Trinket and poor people like Katniss Everdeen clear. The fact that Effie Trinket does not understand why the tributes do not value manners, represents how little she understands the poor, and that most of the time they (the poor) need to eat what they get but also how little she is interested in understanding. She is not only uninterested in the background of such manners but also represents with her behavior the general attitude of the upper class towards the poor. They despise and detest them and prefer to deal as little as possible with them. Furthermore the system is not only designed to take advantage of the gap between poor and rich and to maintain it with the help of fear and disproportionate punishments, but it is also even actively committed to widening the difference. Panem's structure has many individual goals, but one of the main goals is to structurally support and maintain the difference between rich and poor. This becomes very clear when the book speaks of "reaping" which is similar to a lottery, where everyone has to throw their name in a pot in order to take part in the Hunger Games, (cf. THG p. 13-14) But here is the catch. There is the option reinserting the name into the lottery, receiving monthly rations of grain and oil for one year. This is of course not necessary for the upper class but essential for everyone else to survive. The displeasure towards the wealthier people is increased, and the poor are repeatedly shown how much less worthy they are and that the Capitol does not care about them at all. The hatred against the wealthy people is powered by the unfair system and by the fact that the poor people in need are reliant on the money and their generosity (cf. THG p. 13, 14). The social structure of Panem’s society is designed to keep the poor people as poor as possible and the rich people as rich as they can get, also called the pecking order, by using inhumane methods. Methods in which the poor are not only kept as often as possible small and repressed and have as little influence as they can have on their own lives, but also show how hopeless an uprising against the system is. The message from the government is clear: “Look how we take your children and sacrifice them and there’s nothing you can do. If you lift a finger, we will destroy every last one of you. Just as we did in District Thirteen.”(THG p. 19) The Hunger Games itself are presented as the great celebration of the battered rebellion where everyone is happy and beautiful. The reminder for the oppressed population that no matter how much they do, they will never be able to compete against the Capitol, is celebrated every year, and everyone is forced to watch it. Another important part of the distinction between rich and poor is the understanding of freedom. This part is connected to the third aspect and will be explained more detailed in it. There must be a distinction in Panem between the understanding of freedom for the upper and the lower classes, as there are major differences. The difference is that the upper class defines freedom with material goods, the independence of work and money and the feeling of being something better than the rest of the nation. (THG p. 101) The poor population defines the freedom that they do not have enough food to live and the opportunity to pursue their dreams without being punished. (THG p. 7) This also shows how differently the two classes think and how far the gap between them is.

2.3 Aspect 2: The norms and values that embody the society

2.3.1 Definition of norms and values:

According to the three main aspects of the society, here in the second aspect, I need to define the actual meaning of the norms and values to describe them. For that I am using the “Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary” definition. It says that norms are “standards ofbehavior that are typical of or accepted within a particular group or society” (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 2020) and that the values are defined as “beliefs about what is right and wrong and what is important in life” (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 2020). Norms and values cannot be spoken of since norms and values are socially uniform beliefs about what is right and wrong. However, these should not only serve the progress of society based on its leadership but also correspond to the society and the values of the individuals. But there are norms and values for Panem, which are spread due to the rule of the Capitol and control of all powers by President Snow. We are speaking of the norms and values of the Capitol. They can be divided into three core norms and values: inequality, obedience to the Capitol and totalitarianism.

2.3.2 Inequality:

The basic idea of a system that is not only using the difference between rich and poor people for an advance but also does not give poor people the chance to do better and have success. The system actively supports the maintenance and rising of the gap between both classes with less food, low quality and living standards for the poor people and high living standards for the rich people. The upper classes or the rich people, who have not only more influence in their course oflives than the lower class but are also more worth in the eyes of the government, have less to fear. The people of the upper class do not even try to hide what they think of the lower class and express clearly how little they care about the well-being of the lower class. This assumption is illustrated by the government's reaction to Katniss' father's death, which consists of that "The district had given us [Katniss, her sister, and mother] a small amount of money as compensation for his death, enough to cover one month of grieving[...]." (THG p. 27) In comparison to the wealth of the government, this is nuts. In addition to that the population also is limited in choosing their profession. The people with nothing left will never have a chance of a better future at all. *i

2.3.3 Obedience to the Capitol:

The concept of a nation in which all people follow the rules and laws because the whole system is based on the obedience of the people. That is the reason for the high punishment for crimes like stealing or criticizing the president. For example there is a situation in which Katniss is nearly starving to death, regarding the loss ofher father and she is thinking about stealing but: “All forms of stealing are forbidden in District 12. Punishable by death.”(THG p. 30). The fear ofbeing punished is the reason for following the rules as strictly as possible. However, there are cases where the laws are so unjustly and brutally executed. For example, a boy, who hid some special glasses for work in his pants was killed by the Peacekeepers (police like the Gendarmerie in France or Carabinieri in Italy) as a punishment for stealing, (cf. THG p.203) Without taking into account that the boy "Martin wasn’t right in the head. [...] He just wanted the glasses to play with,” (THG p. 203). This clearly shows how merciless and unfair the government is and how exactly the set must be followed.

2.3.4 Conformity:

The opposite ofindividuality; Panem prevents the development of individual identity in many respects, above all this is prevented by the ties to the districts and the resulting limited career options. This gets clear when we take a look at the school in district 12. The education there, “Besides basic reading and math [.. ,]is [mostly] coal- related.” (THG p. 42). The development is also prevented by the government-prescribed identity for the lower classes the good, hardworking, stupid citizen, who do not question anything and for the upper classes the happy, lazy and well-saturated citizen, who also do not question anything. There is no possibility to reflect on and question the pre-given identity since there is nothing to compare it with. This is a massive restriction of the development ofindividuality. This serves to control the poor and rich populations.

2.3.5 Totalitarianism:

According to Wikipedia “Totalitarianism is a political system or a form of government that prohibits opposition parties [like the extinguished rebellion], restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life."(Wikipedia: Totalitarianism, 2020) like for example when Katniss said: “‘District Twelve. Where you can starve to death in safety, ‘[...]” (THG p. 7) and is immediately worried about being heard. "Even here, even in the middle of nowhere, you worry someone might overhear you."(THG p. 7) That shows that even critic at the system is forbidden.


Excerpt out of 18 pages


Panem and America. Is Panem’s society an example of a possible future?
A comparison of the dystopia Panem of the "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins and America
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
American Society: How It Really Works Second EditionAmerica's society, Capitol, Katniss Everdeen, Suzanne Collins, Facharbeit, America, Hunger Games, Panem
Quote paper
Anonymous, 2021, Panem and America. Is Panem’s society an example of a possible future?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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